I found myself sitting here on my couch this morning sipping on my favorite English tea from Yorkshire Gold thinking back on my life and wondering how different my life would have been if my parents had not taken me with them on their travels when I was a young girl. For starters, I wouldn’t be sitting here enjoying a good cuppa tea in my fancy teacup perusing my newest issue of National Geographic’s Travel magazine with my Europe guide book sitting next to me and my desktop open to a last minute flight search engine.
I wonder what kind of person I would be, had my eyes never been opened to all the wonderful things out there and the awesome experiences a person can have and need to have just by traveling the world.
Would I be a more sporty person? Would I be more into politics? Would I just be a stay at home mom with five children bouncing around the house or a full time 9-5 workaholic?
It scares me to think of what kind of person I would have been without the amazing world of travel. Traveling has taught me so much about this world we live in and given me the courage to do so many things. My life would probably have seemed so small and unfulfilled without a life of travel. I probably would have been that girl always wishing to get away and living vicariously through other people’s journeys but never capable of stepping out of my comfort zone to experience this beautiful planet for myself.
I always hear people tell me “how lucky you are to travel while you are still young” when I mention that I live in Europe and it almost makes me feel uncomfortable, like what they are really trying to say is “I wish I was you instead of being stuck at my job”. I feel a burning sensation in me to want to stand up and say “Hey, it has nothing to do with being young! It’s just a matter of having the will to get out there and do it, no matter your age!”
As I have gotten older though, I can see that over time people loose the chance to travel while they are young because they have spent it getting a higher education and then immediately getting hired at that amazing firm, working their way up the ranks. Eventually, people settle down and have a family and soon this takes first priority. So I can understand and appreciate the phrase when I sit back and look at my life.
I have been lucky that I have both gotten my higher education and worked the 9-5 Monday-Friday job and realized this wasn’t the life I wanted to live. I knew I was destined for me, I craved more and needed more.
I once heard that “the habits you form at a young age will stay with you forever”. I have seen this a million times before in my life in the lives of friends and family. I was a young girl of 14 the first time my parents took me out of the country and they were go-getters, doers and see-ers and I watched them as I traveled with throughout my entire adolescent life. The lessons they taught me then, still stay with me to this very day.
Now I am a go-getter, a doer instead of an I-wisher.
I have seen family and friends date not-so-good-guys and fall out of one bad relationship and into the next bad relationship. It’s a horrendous repetitive cycle that is difficult to break. I’ve seen friends who partied hard in college when it was fun, but now it takes on a more adult negative connotation – “alcoholism”. I’ve seen a parent work their life away because they wanted to provide for their family, but soon realized they were reaching the age of 50 and hadn’t done much in life other than work 60-80 hour work weeks. I have seen friends wish away their lives hating their jobs and wishing they could be more like me.
These were all examples of the type of person I didn’t want to be. I came close to the brink of being an alcoholic right out of high school and had one bad relationship one after the other. I watched my parents shake their head in sadness every time my heart got broken, wishing someone would come along and love me. And because I had watched a family member who worked their life away, I strictly adhered to my own personal philosophy that I would not work more than my necessary 40 hours a week. I am ambitious but not to the point where my job takes over my life. Life and work have always been two separate things for me. The only reason why I worked was because it was a family motto:
“We work to travel”. We didn’t live to work.
After college, I moved to Montana and tried to live the happy, quaint and quiet life being content where I was. It wasn’t long though before the fidgeting and itching to get out of my small Podunk town got to the point that I couldn’t handle it anymore. I just knew I had to get out and see the world. I was loosing valuable time that I could be exploring and having new experiences. Everything began to seem so small living there which made me feel like I was suffocating and I knew there were bigger and better places to live.
I almost lost sight of my love of traveling the world because I had tried to conform to a life everyone always says you’re supposed to live. I always felt like sometimes people frowned upon me because I am nearing 30 and I am still not married and don’t have kids because I spent my life taking the road less traveled.
They said: “Go to college, get a good job, settle down and have a family.”
I was too caught up in trying to force this life to come about that I almost became who I didn’t want to be. At one point, I dated a guy who could see that my life was meant for bigger and better things, and that was his excuse when he shattered my heart. I knew the words he spoke were true, but I had always asked myself,
“Why couldn’t I be all of those things and a world traveler?”
After three long years, I had finally made the decision to quit my job, sell my belongings and buy a one way ticket to Europe. I bought my ticket and never looked back. Now I am a travel advocate and I try to encourage those around me to travel while they CAN and while they are YOUNG. I know now, that my irrational fear of dying without seeing every inch of this world is justified.
Travel for the sake of travel!
You will never know the joy of watching the sunset over the Mediterranean, floating down the canals of Venice with the one you love, see Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower, drinking a good dark Belgian beer form tap, partying with the Germans at Oktoberfest, dancing the Tango on the streets of Argentina with a stranger or feeling the power of the Samba shake the floor you’re standing on unless you get out there and explore. I wish I could paint you a picture of just how beautiful the Bavarian Alps are or share my memories with you of the breathtaking view of the Italian coastline that are beyond words and pictures. You just have to get out there and see if for yourself.
As Walt Whitman says, “Not I, not any one else can travel that road for you, You must travel it for yourself!”
Thanks to the internet, you can now find pictures of far off places at the click of a button and our world has grown beyond the borders of our hometowns. You will never learn about different cultures and understand the way they are unless you get to know the people for yourself.
You should take the time to travel and see the wonders of this world we have made. No matter the cost or the price, it will always be worth it. Money can’t buy everything, but traveling will definitely make you a happier person rich in culture, understanding and experiences.
Do it now while you can before other responsibilities tie you down. You may never get this chance again and you never know what is going to happen tomorrow. I mentioned before that the habits you learn now will stick with you for the rest of your life, therefore, I highly encourage you to choose wisely. Some habits are not as rewarding as others. Traveling will always promise to reward you with great experiences and adventures that will turn you into a story teller.
Isn’t it better to see something for yourself than to hear about it a million times?
Traveling has made me the person I am today and I wouldn’t change the world to be any other version of myself in order to be the person everyone else wanted me to be.
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